Happy Wednesday, friends. I wanted to weigh in briefly on the Ryan Clady news, because it’s obviously of material importance to a Broncos team that’s off to a terrific start this year.
A Lisfranc injury is serious, and it’s definitely the sort of thing that would prevent a LT from performing at a high level, or really, being able to perform at all.
I know what some of you are thinking – did a championship season just go up in smoke with one injury? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Clady is an excellent player, but he’s not as impactful as several other players on the team. If the defense can survive the loss of both Von Miller and Champ Bailey, the offense can withstand the loss of Clady.
The Miller comparison is what I keep coming back to. You know how I’ve been saying that a defense can manufacture pressure through scheme? Well, an offense can similarly manufacture protection through scheme. The first thing you have to do is determine what you’re dealing with.
When a team has two difficult edge rushers, and you suddenly don’t fully trust your left tackle, you might have to leave a TE or RB in to block on deeper drops, or longer-developing route concepts. I would say Philadelphia (Trent Cole and Brandon Graham), Dallas (DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer/George Selvie), and Kansas City (Tamba Hali and Justin Houston) qualify as these types of teams.
You could make a case for Washington (Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan), Indianapolis (Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner), and New England (Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich), but none of those duos really scare me. The rest of the teams on the Broncos’ schedule have one (or none), and you can just slide the protection to that side, and still minimum protect a good amount of the time.
There’s always chipping, which is a nice option with a guy like Knowshon Moreno, who can throw a powerful block. If you send him at Chris Clark’s outside shoulder, and have him hit the rusher toward the inside, that can negate any step that the rusher got on Clark. The benefit, too, is that Moreno can still release to the flat as an outlet receiver.
One thing we should note about Clark – he’s not terribly experienced, but he has shown signs of being an effective player. I thought he looked good enough in the preseason this year to start for half the teams in the NFL. The true test will come when he’s lined up against Ware in two weeks, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Clark does better than a lot of people think he will.
The final thing to remember, and maybe the most important, is that the Broncos have Peyton Manning playing quarterback. He’s maybe the best ever at getting the ball out quickly, and avoiding being hit very much. He played behind some scrub offensive lines in Indianapolis, and the best LT he ever had there was the overrated Tarik Glenn.
The loss of Clady is disappointing, and it will present some scheme challenges. It may lead to the Broncos having fewer receivers in the pattern at times, and that may marginally reduce the operating effectiveness of the offense. This can be overcome, though, and I see no reason why this injury (or any single injury not to Peyton Manning) should prevent the team from reaching its goals this year.
Update: 5 PM EDT I left out a couple of things earlier, when I was running from one thing to the next. The first thing I should mention is my thoughts on the Broncos' signing of Winston Justice. I've never particularly liked his game, but he's an experienced veteran, and I think he'll be fine as a backup/insurance policy. Klis says don't sleep on him (per the comments section); I won't because I don't sleep on people, not even my girlfriend. I like my own personal space when I sleep. The reality: Justice was unemployed before today for a reason; he was merely OK as a right tackle in Indianapolis last season, and that was his best work in a while. If you think he's a LT, he's not.
The other idea I've seen is shifting Orlando Franklin from RT to LT. (I also saw a far-fetched comment or two suggesting Zane Beadles for LT.) I think that if you do either thing, you get worse at two positions, instead of just one. I'm always in favor of playing offensive linemen in their personal best spots.